“Stop Scrolling through your Phone!” or What we Know about ‘Phubbing’


Sep 26, 2019

«On New Year’s Eve we hosted our relatives from another city. It was my wife’s brother, his wife and daughter. My wife and I, as usual, had been preparing for the guests’ arrival for a long time – straightening things out at our house and cooking a festive dinner. We exchanged greetings and sat down for the meal, and then each of the family took out a smartphone and started scrolling through them. My wife felt lenient towards this situation, but I was  outraged. I was anticipating the guests, I was looking forward to lively conversation, and instead I felt superfluous in my own home».

— Andrey, 50 years old, teacher

In order to start writing this article, the author had to put aside his phone and had to postpone checking all new publications on Instagram. But we won’t be talking about how the addiction to smartphones affects professional activities (although there is certainly a threat in such cases). Let’s talk about how ‘phubbing’ – phone addiction – affects the quality of life and relationships with others.

Constant “immersion” in a smartphone activity, while communicating with real people, became normal behavior in modern society before the name was invented for this phenomenon. According to research, 53% of women and 21% of men aged 18 to 66 are distracted by smartphones during conversations with a partner at least twice a day. 37% of men and 67% of women feel that they are being regularly ignored by their companion in favor of phubbing. [1]

So why is it so difficult for us to tear ourselves away from these devices, even when we are close to our loved ones? In this article, we’ll talk about the causes and consequences of phubbing and how to get rid of the addiction.


  1. Is it the “new normal”?
  2. What keeps our attention glued to the phone ?
  3. How phubbing affects the quality of life and relationships
  4. What people feel near the phubber?
  5. How to overcome a phone addiction: Psychologist’s Advice
  6. How to get rid of addiction: the 7Spsy behavior modification technique



Phubbing. Is it the “new normal”?

The word “phubbing” first appeared in 2012 in Australia. A congress of writers and literary scholars gathered in order to define “being glued” to the phone while communicating with real interlocutors. As a result of long discussions, they settled on the new word, made up of two words: phone (“phone”) and snubbing (“neglect”).

After a large ‘Stop Phubbing’ campaign the new word was introduced worldwide. The meeting was organized in Australia in order to draw attention to the problem.

In 2013, the word officially entered the Australian National Dictionary. [2]

A person who indulges in phubbing has been named a “phubber.” And the one who is nearby and experiences the unpleasant feelings from that kind of dismissive attitude towards real communication was named “phubbee”.

Of course we can register the addiction to a smartphone not only during communication with others, but also in other everyday situations. Researchers have identified a number of signs of phubbing. Based on them, we have compiled a phubber checklist.
We suggest reading these statements and marking those that describe your attitude. If you marked more than 3, then you should pay attention to this problem. 

Phubber habits checklist (Phone addiction test)

  • I scroll through stories of friends, stars, and unfamiliar people on Instagram (VKontakte feed, Twitter, etc.) while I am eating lunch.
  • Most of the time my smartphone is in my hands, even while I’m walking.
  • I instantly respond to alerts from my phone, even when they distract me from something I am doing at that moment, or from talking to someone else.
  • During leisure time (outdoors, at parties with friends, at exhibitions and concerts) I pay too much attention to the gadget. I often try to take photos and videos and share them on social networks as soon as possible.
  • I’m afraid to skip something important in the news feed and become “off topic”.
  • Sometimes I continue scrolling the feed, even though I have already seen everything posted several times.
  • I feel panic if I leave my phone at home or cannot find it in my bag at once.

What keeps our attention glued to the phone?

Kent University Scientists consider phubbing to be a psychological addiction – a form of Internet addiction. Stress, depression, fears, anxieties, or other psychological problems may cause these kinds of addiction, making people subconsciously try to escape to the virtual world via their phones.

Researchers note that phubbing is closely related to the so-called FoMO (fear of missing out) syndrome – the obsessive fear of missing something important online.

Smartphone addiction may also be caused by a chain reaction. When one person sees that his interlocutor is distracted by a smartphone, he himself may begin to behave in a similar way. As a result, the constant and aimless use of a mobile phone during communication becomes the norm. [1]

It’s interesting that pensioners are starting to become involved in social networks. Statistics show that 54% of elderly users in Russia utilize the Internet to communicate with virtual friends, and already 4% of this audience actively uses the mobile Internet. [6] This may save people from loneliness, but unfortunately in some cases it can lead to family discord, if, for example a husband or wife begins to devote all their free time to social networks.

Irresponsibility and laziness as a norm of life: is it possible to change for the better? How to learn to be more responsible and conscious? Laziness as a norm of life.

How phubbing affects the quality of life and relationships

In 2015, the results of a study regarding the influence of phubbing on romantic relationships were published. 453 people were interviewed. It turned out that the partners of 46% of respondents engaged in phubbing and 22% of respondents confirmed that this led to conflict. In addition, 36% of the people surveyed admitted that they had experienced depression because of it, at least sometimes. [3]

Mobile phone addiction can lead to such consequences as:

  • loss of interest in each other – when two interlocutors or members of company are constantly distracted by smartphones or online communication;
  • scattering of attention- when a person is distracted by their smartphone during important business meetings, ordinary meetings or their studies, and consequently misses or quickly forgets some of the important information;
  • decrease in the level of trust – when a friend seeks to share something important, but in return does not receive sincere and concentrated interest and understanding;
  • physical inactivity – when the phone and Internet addiction leads to a sedentary lifestyle;
  • loss of communication skills – when instead of explaining a point of view or relating some news, a person sends a link or answers shortly: “Google it!”

A particular worry is reserved for children and adolescents becoming addicted to their phones. According to research, in Russia 89% of adolescents use network resources daily. And only occasionally during these times are they engaged in the search for useful information for development and study. [4]

What people feel near the phubber?

«For me friendship is an exchange of energy, opinions and decisions for mutual benefit. When I arrange a meeting with my female friend, I expect her to be as much involved in our communication as I am. But sometimes something interferes in our relations – specifically, her mobile phone. And then my friend’s attention is divided between me and it, half-and-half, or even  in a more disrespectful proportion. I would even say that she “disconnects” from our communication entirely, because true attention can only be of the first order: both visual and auditory.

I feel redundant, unimportant and I doubt my value in her eyes. I’m starting to think that it would have been better if I spend this time by myself, and go to the park, to a cinema or a theater. As Ostap Bender once said: “I can deal with it by myself!”

— Aglaya, 35 years old, theater actress

I believe everybody can empathize with the feelings described above. When a friend or a loved one neglects live communication, we feel jealousy, confusion, irritation, resentment and even anger. The situation becomes even more ridiculous when, in response, we seek consolation in communicating online and immerse ourselves in our smartphones too. Smartphone addiction thus becomes something of a contagious disease.

How to overcome the phone addiction: Psychologist's Advice

  • First ask yourself: “How would I feel if my friend or lover started scrolling through his/her phone instead of talking to me?”
  • It will be useful to recall why we value each other. You can sit opposite your friend and list a few qualities that make you important to each other. Do not be scant with praise!
  • Immerse yourself in nostalgia. Recall your relationship at the very beginning. How did you meet? What were you talking about?
  • Learn to discuss and negotiate. It is important to complain directly to the other person, rather than complaining to virtual friends. Then the relationship will develop.

Try to recall what you dreamed and planned together and outline the first steps for the plan’s implementation. It is important to understand what interests, besides social networks, that you and your loved ones share. In order to do this you’ll need 15 minutes, a sheet of paper and a pen. Answer your questions in writing: “What would you do for pleasure in your free time if all smartphones in the world suddenly stopped working? What do you like to do, besides communicating with virtual friends and scrolling feeds on social networks? ”

Try to include at least 5-10 positions. These are hobbies and activities that could become an excellent substitute for phubbing. Now try to include them in your daily schedule.

There are several independent ways to learn how not to be distracted by your phone and overcome dependence upon it:

  1. Remove all social media applications from your phone for a while (or at least turn off notifications).
  2. Read books in paper form, refuse electronic books.
  3. Write down your thoughts and plans in a notebook, and not with notes on your phone.
  4. Make it a rule to regularly go for a walk, leaving the phone at home.
  5. When visiting or at a meeting with friends, leave your phone in your bag.
  6. Observe the ethics of communication: if you need to answer an urgent call or message, apologize to the interlocutor.
  7. Do not bring your phone with you to the dining table – there are studies that prove that food seems less tasty if you are looking at your phone, monitor or TV during a meal. [5]
  8. Do not check social networks and do not read messages immediately after waking up. First do your morning procedures and workout.
  9. Make the abandonment of gadgets a game. Agree to remove all phones to one place and assign “penalties” for those who reach for their phone before a meal ends.
  10. If your interlocutor is immersed in a smartphone, delicately let him/her know how this makes you feel.

If you find it difficult to follow most of the tips on this list, we recommend that you seek help of a psychologist. It is most likely that you need support and clear instructions about how to return to real life.

How to get rid of addiction: the 7Spsy behavior modification technique

Any addiction is a learned form of behavior. If the tips presented above seem overly strict and difficult to implement, you should think seriously about fighting your addiction to the Internet and phone. Perhaps the correct decision is to turn to a psychologist or to modern methods of behavior correction. The
7Spsy behavior modification technique is one of the most effective ways to work with changing psychological attitudes. The method is based on the behavior theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A. Ukhtomsky. The behavior modification program lasts from 2 to 6 weeks. At the same time, the course is remote: you can practice at a convenient time in a comfortable environment.

You will be supported by a psychologist during the entire course and it will be possible to communicate with him/her via any convenient way: by telephone, in online chat rooms or by e-mail.

It’s really possible to get rid of addiction and limit pointlessly wasting your time with your smartphone. Be prepared to work on correcting your behavior in order to once again recall the pleasure of live communication and the brilliance of real life.

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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